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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

We Visit a New Tomb at Sakarra - Mehu, Vizier to the King

Of course, it's not really new - just newly opened to the public. And it is not even newly discovered - that happened in 1940.

While the French Egyptologist, Pierre Montet, was exploring the 3000 year-old "newest" tombs of ancient Egypt at Tanis which we visited here, Egyptian Egyptologist, Zaki Saad, was exploring the 5000 year-old oldest tombs at Sakarra.  In 1940, Saad discovered the tomb of the king's vizier, Mehu.  Two years earlier, Saad had discovered the nearby tomb of another king's vizier, Hewaka, to much world interest.

Zaki Saad had a big advantage over the foreign archeologists for the next several war years.  As French, German, Italian, British and U.S. archeologists were either unwelcome or out of money, King Farouk was able to nurture his personal archeological interests with funding as he saw fit so he funded Saad.

Saad moved across the Nile from Sakarra to Helwan in 1942 and set up shop in a huge newly discovered ancient graveyard where he spent the next twelve years excavating the remains of 10,000 graves mostly from the common Egyptians of the first few dynasties - around 3000 B.C.  King Farouk kindly provided a headquarters building for this dig which included a home for Saad and his family.  There is reportedly a collection of some 6000 objects from this work tucked away in 158 crates in the basement of the Egyptian National Museum.  Hopefully, these will emerge one day at the new Grand Egyptian Museum when it finally opens.

Mehu's tomb with some of the best artwork in the same area remained closed to the public until last September.  Why keep it closed?  There are many mysteries in Egypt.  Cairo 360 magazine says this:
There is no clear reason announced behind this, but perhaps some tombs are kept for times when they are really needed. However, Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has stated that restoration work was needed before the opening of this tomb. It is expected that this tomb will do very well for tourism, especially with Waziri talking about how it’s “one of the most beautiful [tombs] in the Saqqara Necropolis because it still keeps its vivid colours and distinguished scenes.”
We headed south to Sakarra to take a look.  Tickets for the "new tombs" cost an extra 60 EGP ($3.45)

Tombs-33 Tombs-1

The tourism business is good at Sakarra.  The parking lot is filling up once again.  A few years ago we were one of perhaps a half-dozen vehicles here.

I have been coming to Sakarra since 2003.  Scaffolding has been up on some portion of the Step Pyramid of Djoser during all that time.  People joke that the scaffolding itself has become an antique.


We walked along the southern edge of the main site to the location of Mehu's tomb.
Tombs-03 Tombs-04

Of course, being "open to the public" does not mean the same thing here as back in the U.S.  You have to know the tomb exists, then go find someone to call the man with the key who will then unlock the door for you.  Yes, you need a competent guide like Roshdy to do a tour of Egypt.  Don't try to "wing it."

But Mehu did lay out a nice spot for himself and his son.  The pictures speak for themselves.  All the colors are original.  The ceiling is granite.


Tombs-23 Tombs-21

And what about that old Egyptian Archeologist, Zaki Saad?  Where is he buried?  Glad you asked.

After he retired in 1960, he went to work for the U.S. embassy doing tours for visitors (presumably VIPs from places like the Minnesota International Center.)  He and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1966 and  ended up in North Carolina.  Zaki and his wife, Marcelle, are buried in Pinecrest Memorial Gardens in Clayton, NC.

Zaki managed to hook-up with a dentist from Corsicana, Texas, who was a frequent Egyptian visitor and together they published a book for the U.S. popular marketplace.  You can find a couple of Saad's books on the used market at Amazon.
Zaki and Helwan are going to be on my list for next year's "things to do in Egypt."

Zaki's son, later joined by his sisters, operated a radio/TV repair business that grew into a small television appliance and mattress chain based in Garner, NC.  And now you know "the rest of the story."


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